Community Research Fellows Training Program

Faculty involved: Kia Davis (Program Director), Vetta Sanders Thompson (Past Program Director), Graham Colditz, Bettina Drake, Darrell Hudson, Aimee James, Erika Waters

Application Information

The next CRFT cohort will run in the spring/summer of 2025. Applications will open in January of 2025.

Email the CRFT team at: for more information and to be put on the waitlist.

Contact Information

Community Research Fellows Training (CRFT) Program
Phone: 314-747-2183


The Community Research Fellows Training Program (CRFT) is a comprehensive 17-week public health research training course through PECaD at Washington University School of Medicine and Siteman Cancer Center.

Research has shown that efforts to reduce health disparities are most effective when community members, organizations, and institutions partner together. That’s why we’ve built the CRFT program around a concept known as community-based participatory research (CBPR), which actively and equitably engages community stakeholders in all aspects of the research process (from planning to implementation and evaluation).

The 17-week program begins with an orientation session, 15 weeks of lessons (held on Thursday evenings, from 6:00-9:00 p.m.), followed by a celebratory certificate ceremony in the final week.

The program is modeled after our Masters of Public Health curriculum and provides an introduction to public health research. Lectures are led by faculty from WashU and other institutions, including SLU, and local community health-focused organizations. The lessons feature lectures, hands-on activities, and thought-provoking discussion groups. Topics covered include Public Health and Health Disparities Research methods and ethics, Structural Racism, Health Literacy, Community Health, Clinical Trials, Cultural Competency, Policy Research, Grant Writing, Community Organizing, and more!

Program Goals

The overall goal of the program is to equip community members with the tools and resources to examine and address health disparities that exist among communities of color and medically underserved populations in the St. Louis region.

As a CRFT Fellow, you will learn how to:

1) responsibly engage with research

2) understand how to use research as a tool to improve health outcomes in your community

3) increase community capacity for collaboration with academic research institutions in mutually beneficial projects and programs.

Who Can Participate?

CRFT is intended for anyone who has a desire to reduce health disparities in their community. Past participants have included those currently working in community health, community members interested in getting involved in health disparities research, healthcare workers, community members involved in faith-based organizations, those working in government roles (i.e., county health departments), and those in the academic setting. We also have participants who are community members with an interest and desire to learn.

There are no requirements for participation in the program beyond being over the age of 18. Our participants have ranged in age from 21 to 72 years old, with an equally wide range of educational experience, from those with a high school diploma/GED to those with graduate degrees.

Participant Feedback

“I liked everything about it. One of the biggest things that I liked was the cohesiveness of people from all types of different backgrounds and walks of life coming together discussing public health and health issues. That was the most exciting part to me; other people from different disciplines and backgrounds.”

“Even for a lay person like me, I don’t have any research background, all of this made sense to me, because, like I said, you hear about research and you have one idea about what research is, but this actually took you through all…everything that research touches, and it gave you an insight from beginning to end about research.”

Program Success Highlights

Here are a few examples of the many accomplishments of the CRFT program and participants:

Additional Resources

Becker Library Guide

Publications related to the CRFT program from our faculty, staff, and community members:

Ackermann N, Humble S, Coats JV, Lewis Rhone C, Schmid C, Sanders Thompson V, Davis KL. Community Research Fellows Training Program: Evaluation of a COVID-19-Precipitated Virtual Adaptation. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2023 Feb 13;20(4):3254. doi: 10.3390/ijerph20043254.

Lewis-Thames, ML, Leahy, N, Kruse-Diehr, AJ, Ackermann, N, Maki, J, Davis, KL, Drake, BF. Adapting a Research and Community Capacity-Building Program to Address Rural Cancer Burden and Facilitate Partnership Development Between Rural Community Stakeholders and an Urban Comprehensive Cancer Center. J Canc Educ(2023).

Komaie G, Goodman M, McCall A, McGill G, Patterson C, Hayes C, & Sanders Thompson V. Training Community Members in Public Health Research: Development and Implementation of a Community Participatory Research Pilot Project. Health Equity 2018, Vol 2.1. DOI: 10.1089/heq.2018.0043.

Goodman MS and Thompson VL. Public Health Research Methods for Partnerships and Practice. Routledge/Taylor & Francis Group UK; 2017.

Komaie G, Gilbert KL, Arroyo C, & Goodman MS. Photovoice as a Pedagogical Tool to Increase Research Literacy Among Community Members. Pedagogy in Health Promotion. 2017 Jul 3. doi: 10.1177/2373379917715652.

Komaie G, Ekenga CC, Thompson VL, & Goodman, MS. Increasing Community Research Capacity to Address Health Disparities: A Qualitative Program Evaluation of the Community Research Fellows Training Program. Journal of Empirical Research on Human Research Ethics; 2017 Feb 1, Vol. 12(1) 55-66.

D’Agostino McGowan L, Stafford JD, Thompson VL, Johnson-Javois B and Goodman MS. Quantitative evaluation of the community research fellows training program. Front Public Health 2015; 3:179. doi: 10.3389/fpubh.2015.00179

Coats, J.V., Stafford, J.D., Thompson, VL, Johnson Javois, B. and Goodman, MS. Increasing Research Literacy: The Community Research Fellows Training Program. Journal of Empirical Research on Human Research Ethics 2015, Vol. 10(1) 3–12 DOI: 10.1177/1556264614561959